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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                 33
He kept his pistol cocked, but it is doubtful whether he
would have been able to use it on that first night in the
forest. He slept like a log and heard neither the steady
rustling of the pines, nor the hooting of an owl some-
where near the road, nor the distant howling of wolves—
none of the noises of the forest that filled the dense, im-
penetrable darkness which closely enveloped him.
He woke with a start, as if somebody had shaken him,
as soon as the first streaks of dawn appeared and the
trees loomed in vague silhouettes in the frosty gloom.
On waking he remembered what had happened to him,
and where he was, and the carelessness with which he had
spent the night in the forest frightened him. The intense
cold penetrated his fur-lined flying suit and pierced him
to the marrow. He shivered as if with ague. But the worst
were his feet; the pain was more acute than ever, even
now when he was at rest. The very thought of having
to stand up terrified him. But he rose resolutely, with a
wrench, in the same way as he had torn the boots from
his feet the day before. Time was precious.
To all the torments that had afflicted Alexei was added
that of hunger. The day before, when he had covered the
nurse's body with the ground sheet, he had seen a canvas
Red Cross satchel lying by her side. Some small animal
had already busied itself with it and crumbs were
scattered on the snow near some holes the animal had
gnawed. Alexei had paid scarcely any attention to this
the day before, but now he picked the satchel up and
found in it several field dressings, a large tin of meat, a
packet of letters and a small mirror, at the back of which
was the photograph of a thin-faced, aged woman.
Evidently the satchel had also contained some bread, but
the birds or animals had made short work of that. Alexei
put the tin and the bandages into the pockets of his
flying suit, saying to himself: "Thank you, dear," adjusted
the ground sheet which the wind had blown off the young
woman's feet, and made his way slowly towards the
east, which was already ablaze with orange-coloured
flame behind the network of tree branches.
He now possessed a kilogram tin of meat, and he re-
solved to eat once a day, at noon.